Hot and cold
Since the Communists came to power, November 15 has been circled in red on many Beijing calendars. It’s not Mao Zedong’s birthday. November 15 is the day when city officials dutifully flick the switch to turn on the capital’s centrally-controlled heating system, supplying warmth to most of Beijing’s 22 million residents.
In one of the last vestiges of collective living, Beijing’s coal plants pump heat to city apartments on a strict schedule, from November 15 to March 15, every year. Since the 1950s, the schedule has rarely changed, even if temperatures plummet before the appointed day.
After enduring record heat-waves this summer, with the mercury soaring to its highest mark in 60 years, and thick pollution in the fall (which the government blamed on “fog”), Beijingers are now suffering through the early onset of bitter cold. China’s state-run media reported October 18 as the city’s coldest autumn day since 1986, with temperatures peaking at 48 degrees and then dropping to 44.
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